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How to Identify Fibers in Fabric

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how-to-identify-fibers-in-fabric

What Are Fibers?

Fibers are the most basic units of textiles that we use in our day to day lives. Fibers are often either natural (derived from natural sources like plants) or man-made (or synthetic).

All fibers that exist today have different inherent properties which affect the fabric's hand or feel, weight, appearance, performance, etc.

Natural Fibers

Derived from natural sources, these fibers are obtained from different sources. Some of them are listed as follows.

Fiber ClassificationFiber Name

Cellulosic/Vegetable Fibers

Cotton, Hemp, Jute, Flax, Coir

Animal/Protein Fibers

Silk, Wool

Mineral Fibers

Asbestos

Man-Made Fibers

Man-Made Fibers are artificially prepared fibers. There are 3 major ways, either through melt spinning, dry spinning or wet spinning. Some of the man-made fibers are listed below.

Fiber ClassificationFiber Name

Cellulosic Fiber

Acetate, Rayon, Triacetate

Man-made/Synthetic Fiber

Acrylic, Modacrylic, Nylon, Olefin, Polyester, Spandex

Tests to Identify the Fibers

There are several ways to identify the fibers in the fabric. Some of them are:

  • Touch and feel of the fabric
  • Microscopic view of the fabric
  • Burning test
  • Solubility test

Touch and Feel

By feeling the fabric, the fiber in the fabric can be idenitfied. This often requires experience and skill but an estimate of what fiber may be present in the fabric can be made using this technique.

Microscopic View of the Fabric

Each fiber has a different cross-sectional and longitudinal view when it is viewed under a microscope. Through this technique, one can identify how the cross-sectional and longitudinal views are, and then compare with the actual cross-sectional and longitudinal views of the fibers to identify it. Under a microscope the shapes of the fibers are as follows.

how-to-identify-fibers-in-fabric

Burning Test

This is perhaps the most commonly used method to identify fibers. This usually gives a more accurate result when the fabric is 100% composed of one particular type of fiber. If the fabric is composed of multiple fibers (example polycotton), this test may not give an accurate result, because the component fibers will behave differently.

To do a burning test, take out a couple of yarn strands out of the fabric and using a lighter, apply flame to the yarn strands. Take readings of your observation in relation to the result of the application of flame, the odor when the flame is applied, the characteristics of the flame such as color etc, and appearance of the residue.

The burning characteristics of different fibers are listed below. Compare your results with the table below to identify the fiber.

FiberApplication of FlameOdorCharacteristics of the FlameResidue Appearance

Acetate

Burns quickly

Burnt wood/hot vinegar

Flame is unsteady and difficult to extinguish on blowing

Hard, irregular, black bead shaped

Acrylic

Burns rapidly and melts

Acidic smell

Smoky flame

Hard, irregular, black bead shaped

Cotton

Burns quickly

Burning paper

Burns rapidly with a yellow flame

Light grey to charcoal grey ash

Nylon

Burns slowly and melts

Burnt plastic

Self-extinguishes

Hard, grey bead appearance

Polyester

Burns slowly and melts

Sweet smell

Yellow/orange flame

Hard, black/brown bead appearance

Rayon

Burns quickly

Burning paper

Yellow flame

Light, grey ash

Silk

Burns slowly

Burning hair

Self-extinguishes

Black ash

Wool

Burns slowly

Burning hair

Self-extinguishes

Brittle, small black bead

Fiber Solubility Test

All fibers dissolve in a particular chemical solution. This method can be used to validate the presence of a particular type of fiber in a fabric. Some of the solubility test results are shown in the table below.

FiberChemical

Acetate

Acetone

Acrylic

Dimethyl Formamide

Cotton

75% Sulphuric Acid

Nylon

90% Formic Acid

Polyester

m-Cresol

Silk

5% Sodium Hydroxide

Viscose

60% Sulphuric Acid

Wool

5% Sodium Hydroxide

© 2018 PGupta0919

Comments

KnowYourThings on May 08, 2018:

Thank you for writing this with such details, really helped me understand from the groud up